Testing for Childhood Lead Poisoning Recommended to Prevent Lifelong Health Problems

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb., – Three decades ago, lead poisoning was a major U.S. health hazard, but the introduction of safety precautions including restrictions on the use of lead-based paint and the removal of lead from gasoline helped to decrease the public exposure to lead. Nonetheless, lead poisoning continues to be a public health hazard and research has demonstrated there is no safe level of lead for children.

“As of 2016, more than 88,000 children nationwide had documented elevated venous blood lead levels that were greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter,” said Regional West pediatrician Todd Brubaker, DO, FAAP. “This is the level, and greater, at which we have good medical data supporting an increased risk of ADHD and even mild cognitive decline versus children who do not have lead exposures.”

Dr. Brubaker, who specializes in lead and environmental exposures in pediatric patients, added that a child’s blood lead concentration depends on their environment, habits, and nutritional status.

In western Nebraska, lead is commonly found in the soil and employees may be exposed to lead through occupations including industrial painting, heavy machinery refurbishing or refinishing, mining, and natural gas and oil extraction. Houses throughout the region, constructed before 1978, may still contain lead-based paint. The renovation of older homes may release lead ‘dust,’ which is particularly dangerous to children.

Scotts Bluff County is one of Nebraska’s “targeted areas of concern” for lead exposure. All children who live within the 69361 zip code should be tested for lead poisoning at one and at two years of age via simple finger poke. All children who are on a Medicaid and children who receive WIC are required to have their lead levels tested at one and two years of age.

Lead exposure can be viewed as a lifelong exposure, even after blood lead levels decline. Childhood lead exposure has potential consequences for adults.

For more information about pediatric lead poisoning, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Brubaker about lead or other environmental health concerns, call Regional West Physicians Clinic-Pediatrics at 308-630-1811.

Regional West Health Services in Scottsbluff, Neb., is the parent company of Regional West Medical Center, a 188-bed regional referral center and one of three Level II Trauma Centers in the state. As the region’s only tertiary referral medical center, Regional West offers care that spans more than 32 medical specialties provided by over 28 physician clinics. With nearly 300 providers, and over 2,000 employees, Regional West provides comprehensive and innovative health care services for the people of western Nebraska and the neighboring states of Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming.